1980 Indianapolis 500

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64th Indianapolis 500
Chaparral 2K.jpg
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Indianapolis 500
Sanctioning body USAC
Season 1980 USAC season
1980 CART season
Date May 25, 1980
Winner Johnny Rutherford
Winning team Jim Hall Racing
Average speed 142.862 mph (229.914 km/h)
Pole position Johnny Rutherford
Pole speed 192.256 mph (309.406 km/h)
Fastest qualifier Johnny Rutherford
Rookie of the Year Tim Richmond
Most laps led Johnny Rutherford (118)
Pre-race ceremonies
National anthem Purdue band
"Back Home Again in Indiana" Dr. Richard Smith
Starting Command Mary F. Hulman
Pace car Pontiac Firebird Trans Am
Pace car driver Johnnie Parsons
Attendance 300,000 (estimated)
TV in the United States
Network ABC
Announcers Jim McKay and Jackie Stewart
Nielsen Ratings 13.8 / 27
Chronology
Previous Next
1979 1981

The 64th 500 Mile International Sweepstakes was held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday, May 25, 1980. Johnny Rutherford won the pole position, led 118 laps, and won the race by a commanding 29.92 second margin. After failing to finish the race the year before (with Al Unser behind the wheel), Jim Hall's radical new Chaparral 2K chassis drove a flawless race, and was a heavy favorite entering the month.[1] Rutherford, the winner in 1974 and 1976, became the sixth driver to win the Indy 500 three times.

Tom Sneva broke an Indy 500 record by becoming the first driver to start last (33rd) and lead the race. Sneva led two times for 16 laps, and finished the race in second position. Sneva likewise became the first driver in Indy history to start last and finish second (a feat tied by Scott Goodyear in 1992). It was Sneva's third runner-up finish in four years, tying Harry Hartz's record for three second-place finishes. Sneva's efforts were often branded afterwards with a "bridesmaid" reference, until he would finally go on to win the race in 1983.

The starting lineup featured 10 rookies, a sharp contrast from 1979, which had only one.[2]

For the first time in Indy history, the three drivers that started in the eleventh and final row finished in the top eight — 2nd, 3rd, and 8th, respectively.[3]

Background[edit]

After the tumultuous and controversial month of May at Indy in 1979, the landscape of Indy car racing was starting to settle into a more civilized fashion. During the offseason, USAC published their 1980 schedule, which featured such races as the Indianapolis 500, Ontario, Talladega, and Charlotte.[4] Meanwhile, CART released their own schedule. Before the season began, the leaders of USAC and CART jointly formed the new Championship Racing League (CRL) to co-sanction the season of events. Several of the USAC-planned events were scrapped, including Talladega, Charlotte, Mosport, and Road Atlanta, and the two schedules were instead merged.

The 1980 CART/PPG Indy Car World Series began in April, and Indianapolis was the second race of the season. CART awarded points for Indianapolis towards their championship. After Indianapolis, Speedway officials were unhappy with the CRL arrangement. In the middle of July, after a total of five races had been run, USAC pulled out of the CRL.

Rules changes[edit]

Going into the month USAC dropped turbocharger "boost" levels to 48 inHG across the board. Previously the levels were 50 inHG for qualifying and 70 inHG during the race. The rule change slowed cars down by approximately 8-10 mph, and caused considerable complaint amongst the competitors. Outspoken critics included A. J. Foyt who referred to it as "taxicab racing,"[2] and Johnny Rutherford who said it made it difficult to pass other cars.

Race schedule[edit]

Race schedule — May, 1980
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
        1
 
2
 
3
Opening Day
4
Practice
5
Practice
6
Practice
7
Practice
8
Practice
9
Practice
10
Pole Day
11
Time Trials
12
Practice
13
Practice
14
Practice
15
Practice
16
Practice
17
Time Trials
18
Time Trials
19
 
20
 
21
 
22
Carb Day
23
Mini-Marathon
24
Parade
25
Indy 500
26
Memorial Day
27
 
28
 
29
 
20
 
31
 
Color Notes
Green Practice
Dark Blue Time trials
Silver Race day
Red Rained out*
Blank No track activity

* Includes days where track activity
was significantly limited due to rain

Time trials[edit]

Pole Day - Saturday May 10[edit]

Johnny Rutherford's pole and race-winning Chaparral 2K

The first day of time trials opened with cloudy skies and temperatures in the low 70s (°F). Scattered rain showers were in the forecast. The favorites for the pole included Mario Andretti, Johnny Rutherford, and rookie Tim Richmond. A. J. Foyt was also a dark horse for the front row. Richmond had set the fastest lap of the month (193.507 mph) in practice, but a crash on pole day morning sidelined him for the weekend.

Defending champion and defending pole winner Rick Mears was the first driver out to qualify at 11:00 a.m., and he set the early pace at 187.490 mph. An hour later, Spike Gehlhausen (188.344 mph) knocked Mears off the top spot. At 12:45 p.m., Mario Andretti took over the provisional pole with a speed of 191.012 mph.

A short rain shower closed the track for 20 minutes.

At 2:08 p.m., Johnny Rutherford in the Jim Hall Chaparral 2K chassis (nicknamed the "Yellow Submarine" due to its bright yellow Pennzoil paint job) took to the track. Rutherford secured the pole position with a four-lap average speed of 192.256 mph.

The next car out was Bobby Unser, who squeezed on to the front row with a speed of 189.994 mph. A. J. Foyt, took to the track twice - the first attempt he waved off before taking the green flag, and the second attempt was aborted due to a rain shower. After a rain and hail delay of over an hour and a half, Foyt got one last chance to qualify. His speed of 185.500 mph was good enough only for 12th starting position.

At the end of the first day of time trials, the field was filled to 16 cars.

Second Day - Sunday May 11[edit]

Three cars completed runs, with Danny Ongais (186.606 mph) the fastest of the afternoon. Gordon Johncock, who broke his ankle in a practice crash on Thursday, got in a back-up car to qualify for 18th starting position.

Third Day - Saturday May 17[edit]

The third day of time trials was rained out. With a starting spot at Indy secured for the middle of the front row, Mario Andretti flew to Monte Carlo for the Monaco Grand Prix. Andretti would finish 3 laps down in 7th, then would return to Indy in Carburetion Day.

Bump Day - Sunday May 18[edit]

The final day of time trials opened with 14 spots open. There were roughly 38 cars in the garage area prepared to qualify, and the day was expected to be busy and hectic.

Non-stop qualifying took place when the track opened at noon. The field was filled to 33 cars by 2:40 p.m. Rookie Tim Richmond was the fastest of the day at 188.334 mph, the 5th-fastest car overall in the field. Tony Bettenhausen (176.410 mph) was on the first driver on the bubble.

The bumping began with John Martin bumping out Bettenhausen. In total, seven drivers were bumped by 4 p.m. Eventually, Martin was bumped himself.

With weather starting to enter the area at 4 o'clock, time was running out for qualifying. Gary Bettenhausen (Tony's brother) was now on the bubble. Bettenhausen survived three attempts over the next 15 minutes. At 4:20 p.m., Ron Shuman was lined up to make an attempt, but rain began to fall before he pulled away. Bettenhausen held on to make the field, and the track was closed for the day.

Carburetion Day - Thursday May 22[edit]

The final practice session before race day saw Mario Andretti set the best lap at 189.954 mph. Tom Bagley spun and crashed in turn 3, but he was uninjured. Bill Vukovich blew his engine. A total of 31 of the 33 qualified cars took laps.

Later on, Tom Bigelow's AMI Racing/Sherman Armstrong team won the Miller Pit Stop Contest.

Tragedy struck in the infield during the session. Timothy Scott Vail, 19, of Indianapolis, was killed in the infield when his jeep overturned in the notorious "Snake Pit" area of the turn 1 infield. He suffered a fractured skull.[5]

Race summary[edit]

Pre-race[edit]

Tom Sneva, who had qualified 14th, wrecked his primary car during the second week of practice. His team obtained a back-up car, and Sneva arranged to drive that car in the race. According to the rules, Sneva would move to the rear of the field, and start the race in last (33rd) position.

Mary F. Hulman gave the command to start engines shortly before 11:00 a.m. With Janet Guthrie failing to qualify, the command reverted to the traditional "Gentlemen, start your engines!" for the first time since 1976.

First half[edit]

At the start, polesitter Johnny Rutherford and Bobby Unser went into turn one side-by-side, with Rutherford taking the lead. Mario Andretti settled into third. Larry "Boom Boom" Cannon and Mike Mosley were both out with engine problems in the first 5 laps.

The first of several cautions came out on lap 4, for a tow-in for Cannon. On lap 9, the yellow was out again for a crash between Bill Whittington and Dick Ferguson. Ferguson hit the inside wall in the southchute hard, but walked away. The race was restarted, but after only one lap of green, Spike Gehlhausen crashed in turn 1.

During the sequence of pit stops and yellows, the lead changed hands several times in the first 60 laps. Rookie Tim Richmond led lap 73, then on lap 74, Tom Sneva set an Indy 500 record by leading the race after starting last (33rd). Sneva led the next 11 laps.

After leading 10 laps during the race, and being in contention, Mario Andretti dropped out with engine trouble.

Second half[edit]

At the halfway point, 20 cars were still running. Bobby Unser led at the halfway point. Johnny Rutherford, Rick Mears, and Tom Sneva were all in the top five.

Bobby Unser dropped out with turbo failure after 126 laps. With Unser out, Johnny Rutherford dominated most of the second half, but Tom Sneva and Rick Mears both managed to lead laps, and were far from out-of-contention.

On lap 172, Rick Mears took the lead, with Sneva second, Rutherford third. One final scheduled pit stop remained for the leaders. Rutherford was the first to pit, under green. A. J. Foyt brought out the yellow on lap 177 for stalling in turn 3. Mears held a 20-second lead. Tom Sneva ducked into the pits under the yellow for tires and fuel. One lap later, leader Mears was in the pits. Mears gambled with track position, and took on only fuel. Still under the yellow, Johnny Rutherford assumed the lead, and Mears' strategy failed and he dropped back to third.

Finish[edit]

In the final 20 laps, Johnny Rutherford held a comfortable lead over Tom Sneva, and was pulling away at will. Third place was now being dueled out between Gary Bettenhausen and Gordon Johncock. In the final stages, Rick Mears ducked into the pits for an unscheduled stop to change a punctured tire, which dropped him from contention.

With Rutherford cruising to a certain victory, and second-place Sneva also unchallenged, the attention began to focus on the battle for third place. Gordon Johncock was tucked right behind Gary Bettenhausen. Danny Ongais (7th place) was right with them, albeit a lap down. On the final lap, Bettenhausen held a car-length advantage as they approached turn 4. Suddenly, Ongais smacked the outside wall exiting turn four. Johncock attempted a slingshot pass at the line, but Bettenhausen held him off for third place by 0.27 seconds.

Rutherford won his third Indy 500 by a margin of 29.92 second over Tom Sneva. Sneva was lauded for charging all the way from last starting position (33rd) to a second place finish. He became the first driver in Indy history to do so.

As Rutherford was pulling into the pits off his victory lap, rookie Tim Richmond ran out of fuel and stopped at the head of the mainstretch. Richmond, the future NASCAR star and "hot shot" personality on the circuit, led one lap during the race, was credited with 9th place, and won the rookie of the year. Rutherford stopped next to Richmond's car, and signaled for Richmond to hop on board and ride back to the pits. With much applause from the crowd, Richmond rode in on the sidepod of the winner's machine and the two exchanged congratulatory waves and handshakes.[6]

The race was slowed by a then-record 13 cautions for 65 laps - race records that would stand until 1988 and 1992, respectively.

Pancho Carter was penalized a lap for passing the pace car under yellow. If the penalty were to be lifted, he would move up from 6th place to 2nd place. Carter's team protested the ruling, but USAC denied the protest.[7]

Starting grid[edit]

Row Inside Middle Outside
1 United States Johnny Rutherford (W) United States Mario Andretti (W) United States Bobby Unser (W)
2 United States Spike Gehlhausen United States Jerry Sneva United States Rick Mears (W)
3 United States Johnny Parsons United States Pancho Carter United States Al Unser (W)
4 United States Roger Rager (R) United States Jim McElreath United States A.J. Foyt (W)
5 United States Tom Bagley United States Larry Cannon United States Dick Ferguson (R)
6 United States Danny Ongais United States Gordon Johncock (W) United States Don Whittington (R)
7 United States Tim Richmond (R) United States Gordon Smiley (R) United States George Snider
8 United States Billy Engelhart (R) United States Greg Leffler (R) Australia Dennis Firestone (R)
9 United States Hurley Haywood (R) United States Mike Mosley United States Bill Whittington (R)
10 United States Jerry Karl United States Dick Simon United States Bill Vukovich II
11 United States Tom Bigelow United States Gary Bettenhausen United States Tom Sneva

Box score[edit]

Finish Start No Name Qual Rank Laps Led Status
1 1 4 United States Johnny Rutherford (W) 192.257 1 200 118 Running
2 33 9 United States Tom Sneva 185.290 19 200 16 Running
3 32 46 United States Gary Bettenhausen 182.463 33 200 0 Running
4 17 20 United States Gordon Johncock (W) 186.075 15 200 11 Running
5 6 1 United States Rick Mears (W) 187.491 7 199 10 Flagged
6 8 10 United States Pancho Carter 186.480 11 199 5 Flagged
7 16 25 United States Danny Ongais 186.606 10 199 0 Flagged
8 31 43 United States Tom Bigelow 182.547 32 198 0 Flagged
9 19 21 United States Tim Richmond (R) 188.334 5 197 1 Flagged
10 23 44 United States Greg Leffler (R) 183.749 22 197 0 Flagged
11 22 29 United States Billy Engelhart (R) 184.237 20 193 0 Flagged
12 30 2 United States Bill Vukovich II 182.741 31 192 0 Flagged
13 18 96 United States Don Whittington (R) 183.927 21 178 0 Flagged
14 12 14 United States A.J. Foyt (W) 185.500 16 173 0 Valve
15 21 16 United States George Snider 185.386 18 169 1 Engine
16 24 18 Australia Dennis Firestone (R) 183.701 23 137 0 Transmission
17 5 7 United States Jerry Sneva 187.852 6 130 0 Crash T1
18 25 99 United States Hurley Haywood (R) 183.561 24 127 0 Fire
19 3 11 United States Bobby Unser (W) 189.994 3 126 26 Turbocharger
20 2 12 United States Mario Andretti (W) 191.012 2 71 10 Engine
21 28 38 United States Jerry Karl 183.011 28 64 0 Clutch
22 29 8 United States Dick Simon 182.787 30 58 0 Lost wheel
23 10 66 United States Roger Rager (R) 186.374 13 55 2 Crash SC
24 11 23 United States Jim McElreath 186.249 14 54 0 Crash SC
25 20 70 United States Gordon Smiley (R) 186.848 9 47 0 Turbocharger
26 7 15 United States Johnny Parsons 187.412 8 44 0 Piston
27 9 5 United States Al Unser (W) 186.442 12 33 0 Cylinder
28 13 40 United States Tom Bagley 185.405 17 29 0 Pump
29 4 35 United States Spike Gehlhausen 188.344 4 20 0 Crash T1
30 27 94 United States Bill Whittington (R) 183.262 26 9 0 Crash T1
31 15 26 United States Dick Ferguson (R) 182.880 29 9 0 Crash T1
32 26 48 United States Mike Mosley 183.449 25 5 0 Gasket
33 14 95 United States Larry Cannon 183.253 27 2 0 Camshaft

Alternates[edit]

Failed to qualify[edit]

Broadcasting[edit]

Radio[edit]

The race was carried live on the IMS Radio Network. Paul Page served as anchor for the fourth year. Lou Palmer reported from victory lane. Rodger Ward, who previously served as a commentator for ABC Sports, joined the crew as "Driver Expert." It was the first time that a former winner served as the expert. This would be the final year for Darryl Wibel on the crew.

The reporting location for turn one was located atop the Southwest Vista grandstand, whereas in other years it was normally in the upper deck of the E Stand.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network
Booth Announcers Turn Reporters Pit/garage reporters

Chief Announcer: Paul Page
Driver expert: Rodger Ward
Statistician: John DeCamp
Historian: Donald Davidson

Turn 1: Ron Carrell
Turn 2: Howdy Bell
Backstretch: Bob Jenkins
Turn 3: Doug Zink
Turn 4: Darl Wible

Jerry Baker (north pits)
Chuck Marlowe (north-center pits)
Luke Walton (south-center pits)
Lou Palmer (south pits)
Bob Forbes (garages/hospital)

Television[edit]

The race was carried in the United States on ABC Sports on a same-day tape delay basis. For the first time, the broadcast was expanded to three-hours. Chris Schenkel rode along and reported live from inside one of the pace cars at the start of the race.

The broadcast has re-aired on ESPN Classic since May 2011.

ABC Television
Booth Announcers Pit/garage reporters

Host: Chris Schenkel
Announcer: Jim McKay
Color: Jackie Stewart

Chris Economaki
Sam Posey
Dave Diles

Gallery[edit]

Notes[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Talk of Gasoline Alley. 2011-05-19. WFNI.
  2. ^ a b 1980 Indianapolis 500 Television broadcast: ABC-TV - May 25, 1980
  3. ^ "Legends of the Brickyard" - 1980 Indy 500
  4. ^ January 17, 1980 USAC News letter
  5. ^ "Spectator killed, but Indy driver survived accident". Rome News-Tribune. 1980-05-23. Retrieved 2012-04-04. 
  6. ^ "Rutherford remembers a "hitchhiker" named Tim Richmond". AutoRacing1.com. 2009-05-16. Retrieved 2012-02-23. 
  7. ^ "Indy Officials Reject Carer Protest". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 1980-05-27. Retrieved 2012-02-23. 

Works cited[edit]


1979 Indianapolis 500
Rick Mears
1980 Indianapolis 500
Johnny Rutherford
1981 Indianapolis 500
Bobby Unser